Alleged SARS torture: Zenith Bank implicated as teenager loses sight in Oyo
Two years after being allegedly tortured by the Special Anti-Robbery Squad personnel in Saki, Oyo State, an 18-year-old hotel attendant, Samuel Ogundeji, has lost his sight.
Ogundeji, told PUNCH Metro that all efforts made by his parents for him to regain his sight had proved abortive, adding that three different hospitals in Saki; Ilorin, Kwara State; and a border town in Benin Republic, had confirmed that his eyes had become defective and that he would need to be operated upon abroad in order to regain his sight.
Recounting his ordeal, he said, “On January 10, 2017, I applied for the job of a bar attendant at the Neagle Club and Resort, Saki, and was offered the job on a salary of N10,000 monthly. I was in the bar till February when a girl, Oyin, who was working in the hotel, resigned; so, I was transferred to the hotel section.
“Another guy, Sola, and I began working in the hotel and we changed duties on a regular basis. But on May 1, 2017, a customer, who works at the Zenith Bank, Saki West branch, lodged at one of the rooms. And the following morning, around 6.45am, the driver came and took him to his office. That day, I was on night duty and closed around 8am and went home without any inkling that I would be dealt with for a crime I knew nothing of.
“Normally, I resumed by 8pm, but on my way home, the manager called me and said that the man (banker), who lodged at the hotel the previous night, reported that he lost his wallet in the room and I said I didn’t know of any missing item or a wallet containing some cash.
“The Chief Executive Officer, Omotoso Abdulahi Niyi, was also around and he came in and said we should look for the wallet at all cost, otherwise, we would be dealt with. And the PA to the CEO and the manager came in with SARS personnel and arrested me and Sola.
“Mr Agbo of the SARS handed us over to their colleagues, Victor and Gbenga, who took us to an uncompleted building and started beating us. While the beating lasted, blood covered my eyes, yet they didn’t stop until later in the day, when Mr Oyesikun Oyerinde Samson (manager) and the PA, Abiodun Ajibade, drove into the station and were told about my condition.
“They bailed us and a doctor was contacted. He confirmed that my condition was critical and said he couldn’t handle it. I was thereafter taken to the hotel. All these while, my parents were not contacted, but a neighbour to the hotel, who saw that there was a problem in the hotel, contacted my parents.
“Around 8pm, my mum came and she was surprised that I had been beaten to the point of losing both eyes. She was calmed and told to take it easy, that I would be fine.
“I must say that the SARS personnel didn’t ask for my statement but merely handed me over to junior officers, who beat me till I lost my two eyes.
“Later, on May 6, 2017, the manager told me that the guest didn’t even bring the said wallet to the hotel and that they acted in error.
“Curiously, however, all of them abandoned me till date; all the hospitals we have visited said only a foreign hospital could handle my case. The three hospitals in Saki, Ilorin and the border area of Benin Republic said blood stains had blocked my eyes and that only a comprehensive operation could restore them.”
The Chief Executive Officer, Neagle Club and Resort, Challenge area, Saki, Mr Niyi Abdulahi, confirmed the development to PUNCH Metro, but said the victim had a history of eye defects.
Abdulahi said, “Just 20 minutes ago, a lawyer, Mr Kareem, whose chamber is at Apinnite, Saki, called me and I just returned from a meeting with him. A human rights group has also intervened in the matter. I don’t know much about the matter but my manager knew all that happened.
“However, his eyes had been defective before the incident. It was only unfortunate that it happened the way it did. I gave his family over N100,000 for the treatment of the eyes last year. And they promised to come back this year, only for me to be told that another lawyer had been contacted, different from the former one they brought to us in 2018. We will resolve it; the matter is still under control.”
When contacted, the police spokesman for the state, Mr Lawrence Fadeyi, asked for time to enable him find out what transpired and the alleged roles played by the SARS officers mentioned. Punch